Along with the December 2015 availability of Flathead Forest Christmas tree permits—costing just five dollars—the Montana Forest Service has also announced a new “Every Kid in the Park” initiative, making all fourth graders eligible for one FREE tree permit. To receive the free permit, the child must present a valid pass. To obtain the pass, visit Every Kid in a Park, follow the instructions on the website, and print the paper voucher. The child must then take the voucher in person to the Forest Service office to claim his/her free Flathead Valley Christmas tree permit.
Now, for the rest of my Christmas Tree story: Excited by the prospect of selecting a fresh tree from the forest, Keith and I, and our two friends, drove quite a long way up the Crane Mountain Road before pulling the car over and trudging through eight inches of fresh snow to a broad meadow, sprinkled with trees of every variety. Immediately, I saw the tree I wanted, but before Keith could get his saw in motion, I changed my mind. For well over an hour I ran from one tree to the next, vowing that each would be “my final choice,” only to find a bare spot or a crooked trunk, which every Christmas tree critic knows is a deal-breaker. Typically a very patient man, I had pushed him to his breaking point. “I mean it, Becky. Make a decision. This is it. I’m going home.”
Meanwhile, our friends stood patiently next to their selection—a measly little thing, by my standards. I mean, they were paying the same five dollars as me for a nice big tree, so why, I wondered, hadn’t they chosen the tallest tree they could get on their car?
Growing more annoyed by the minute, Keith jumped on my latest “final choice” with clenched teeth, and began working his saw. It took the four of us, panting and groaning, to drag that snow-laden tree over the stumps and downfall, and out of the meadow, where, after another hour spent cursing and scratching the car finish and losing the tree off the opposite side, we secured her to the roof. “I’ll never get tree through the front door,” Keith declared, furious. I kept my mouth shut—it was safer that way. Unfortunately, however, he was right.
The tree wouldn’t go through the front door. Or the back door. Not even with four adults pushing and pulling with all of our might, determined to force it through. “Not going. No way,” he declared.
“What about the French doors off the deck?” I suggested.
Next, they dragged the enormous Frazier Fur up the back steps and onto the deck as I raced through the house and threw open the doors. Just as I suspected, the tree slipped easily through, but was a good four feet too tall for my ceiling. By this point, I was in big trouble and I knew it. “I should throw the damn thing off the deck,” he threatened.
Then, it began to snow. Big flakes, the size of quarters, stuck to the cold needles creating a lovely lace flocking. “Set it up outside,” I said, “outside the French doors. I’ll load it with colored lights and the spotlight will illuminate the falling snow. It will be beautiful.” He shook his head and rolled his eyes, but with the help of our friends, we muscled the big tree into a make-shift stand and secured it to the railing, so it couldn’t fall over.
Once the tree was lit and flocked with snow, Keith came around. In fact, I may have heard him bragging a little to our neighbors, when he thought I was out of earshot. He said it was the perfect place for such a great Christmas tree. And, yes, it was a unique holiday experience that year, having the tree on the deck, its branches ablaze with colored lights and heavily flocked with snow. Different, but incredibly beautiful—a memory I’ll always hold close to my heart as our best Christmas tree ever.
Becky Palmquist is married to Keith, broker-owner of RiverBend Realty in Bigfork, Montana. She is a writer and a retired psychiatric and mental health nurse